Blended families are more common today than ever. It can be easy to forget that the adjustments are not always easy on kids. Not only are children of divorce usually transitioning between two homes, now they are living with one or two sets of step-parents and siblings. It impacts privacy, bedroom arrangements, friends, schedules and even birth order. It can feel like a hotel when you have kids constantly rotating between houses. Some spend very little time together and feel like they are living with strangers.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you blend your family:
Tip #1: Don’t force the relationships. Relationships and bonding take time. Be sensitive to the feelings that your children have. Consider their input. I would recommend waiting to blend families until good friendships and trust have been created.
Tip #2: Parenting differences. It is hard enough raising children with one mom and dad. Divorce adds an additional challenging element. Blending a family complicates things even further. Keep that in mind before you jump in. You need to look at your parenting differences realistically.
Tip #3: Relating to each other’s children. Consider how each of you will relate to and parent (or not parent) the other’s children. It is important that you have an understanding and agreement on this early on. Do not make assumptions or have expectations. You need to have the conversation.
Tip #4: Retain relationships with your children. Don’t get so caught up in your new marriage that your children feel like guests in your home. Spend individual time with each child. Both parents need to do that with their own children, and then start spending time with each other’s children as well. You are building relationships and a family unit. Everyone needs to feel loved and valued.
Tip #5: Sibling rivalry. If sibling rivalry comes up, do not send the kids to separate corners, yell at them or ignore it. You need to address it. They may be taking their feelings out on each other. Sit down and work through the issues sensitively and diligently. Your kids did not create the new living arrangements and they have no way of getting their old life back. Keep that in mind as you work through the bumps. Have compassion, empathy and patience.
Tip #6: Know the difference between attitude and emotion. Sometimes your kids will seem like they have attitude, when they’re really just very passionate and feel strongly about something. Maybe they are pushing back about changes in the home. Let them know that you are interested in what they have to say, and you need them to share it with respect. Don’t stifle the sharing. Teach them how to express it respectfully. That will be an excellent skill that will serve them well. Remember they are learning by watching you. How do you handle your emotions when you are upset? You have a great opportunity to teach by example.
Even though divorce and blended families are common today, it doesn’t take away the sting and pain that many children experience. Take the time necessary to develop a healthy and strong relationship with your children before embarking on a new romantic relationship. They need that. Be sure to create a strong, solid foundation in your new relationship before blending families. You will need something stable to build on.
Traci L. Williams is the Founder of A Loving Way to Parent. She provides parenting classes, teen programs and individual coaching. She is known for her practical parenting style and can be reached directly at 951-240-1407 or firstname.lastname@example.org. www.alovingway.com